Miley has built her empire on being someone else, the tween-worshipped Hannah Montana, an extension of Cyrus’ real personality that sings and dances and has her own Disney TV show. Her tickets sold better than the Spice Girls reunion tour. They’re the most sought-after tickets in the country. She was just granted a multi-million dollar contract to write an autobiography. The girl’s 15. She can probably only consciously remember 8-10 years of her young life. What on earth is there to write about?
Well, there’s a lot actually. She’s a phenomenon. She’s a phenomenon because she manipulates the media to her advantage in a way stars before her have not. Miley Cyrus uses the internet to further propagate her fame. She releases silly Youtube videos with her best friend (and 22 year old!) Mandy which chronicle everything from her day-to-day life, to potential satirical attacks on legends like Madonna. She has websites and merchandise and CDs and concert tickets and DVDs; she is what the Olsen twins would be had they grown up in the digital era. Surely Mary-kate and Ashley would have released half their videos to streaming websites, much like Miley does.
And you get the feeling that she is entirely conscious of everything that she’s doing. Her parents must have a hand in it all, since she is only 15, but she seems much smarter than your typical little Britney. She understands how she has to act to maintain her image and she’s very purposeful in perpetuating that image. She is much more conscious of the paradox tossed upon her by record companies and media outlets than Britney was. Take the current Vanity Fair debacle; she knew what she was doing. No one manipulated her. Her parents were on set, the pictures were taken by respected photog Annie Leibovitz, and there’s not even a hint of inappropriate skin displayed beyond something an evening gown might show. And yet, she releases the apology statement, that she was “duped” by notions of artistry and professionalism, she was just trying to be artistic. She knows we won’t buy that load of crap, and we don’t. We fully recognize that it’s bullshit. But it’s still necessary for Cyrus to release that statement, and we all know it. If she didn’t, we’d label her a slut and chalk her up to another Hollywood victim. So we read the statement, and we mock its ridiculousness, but we take for granted the fact that it is still this necessary device wedged between star and audience that needs to be released despite its ludicrousness. Miley Cyrus knows that people find her attractive, even though she’s 15 and they probably shouldn't. She is a Lolita, and by painting her as half-victim half-whore on internationally acclaimed urban newspapers, we are playing right into her trap.
Miley Cyrus may look dumb, but she knows exactly what she’s doing. She manipulates new technology and the press to help tailor her image, bolstering her approval in the minds of parents and children everywhere. Everybody makes mistakes, but that Vanity Fair cover was no mistake. Miley Cyrus is smarter than all of us.